Dry Eye

What is ‘Dry Eye’?

Dry eye is the most common problem in eyes, affecting at least 1 in 5 adults. It happens when the tears your eyes produce are of insufficient quality or quantity, or more typically, they simple evaporate too quickly. Tear fluid lubricates and protects the delicate surface of the eye, as well as ensuring crisp vision between blinks. 

Symptoms of dry eyes may include:

  • Gritty feeling
  • Burning, stinging
  • Itchy eyes
  • Blurred or smeary vision that is intermittent
  • Tired eye feeling
  • Watery eyes
  • Mild photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Sensitivity to pollution and air conditioning

What causes dry eyes?

Dry eyes are more common amongst women, and in older people, but there are lots of other factors that can increase your likelihood of having signs and symptoms:

  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
  • Computer use (you blink less)
  • Contact lens wear
  • Laser eye surgery
  • Using eye drops that contain preservatives for other conditions such as glaucoma
  • Hormonal changes 
  • Being dehydrated
  • Pollution or dry environments
  • Some medications for conditions such as high blood pressure, hayfever, contraception, and depression. CAUTION: do not alter or adjust your prescribed medicines without instructions from your doctor. Your doctor or your optometrist can advise you about any possible links between the medication you take and dryness symptoms.

What is the treatment for dry eyes?

Thinking about your environment can help – avoiding air conditioning and taking breaks from the computer, as well as wearing sunglasses can help. Also, making sure your diet is rich in Omega 3 essential fatty acids has also been shown to reduce symptoms.

The most common cause of dry eye is inflamed eyelids (blepharitis) which means that taking care of eyelids and keeping them clean is an important part of managing dry eye symptoms for many sufferers.

Dry eye drops can be used to lubricate and hydrate the surface of the eye, in order to help to restore and maintain the natural balance of tear composition. Modern eye drops can also contain clever ingredients that protect the eye from environmental stresses. Some are also available in gel form for longer lasting relief, particularly overnight. It is important that the eye drops and gels you choose are free from all preservatives.

You may find these links interesting:

NHS National Health Foundation
BSSA The British Sjögren's Syndrome Association
RNIB Royal National Institute of Blind People

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